Memorandumsubmitted by Dr L Safran

Onbehalf of The Otherwise Club,  acommunity centre in central London supporting families choosing to educatetheir children out of school, founded in 1993 and composed of approximatelyfifty families.

 

Summary

1. The review does not acceptElective Home Education (EHE) research because it states that this research relieson a small and select sample. However, the review itself makes these mistakes.

     2. Mr Badman fails topresent evidence that current legislation is inadequate.

3. Having failed to presentevidence of a need for any change to legislation, the review appeals tointernational parity again using selective and biased examples.

 

1. PoorResearch Characteristics

 

Thisreview uses poor research techniques which are inaccurate and misleading andborder on being false and disingenuous. Mr Badman is critical of existingresearch about home education in this country and abroad[1].However, the research for this review suffers similar problems the reviewascribes to others. Firstly, the review has made recommendation on the basis ona small sample as shown by the request for supplementary data made[2]. MrBadman’s letter of 20 September, 2009 asking for more information from local authorities says:

 

However,it [the number of local authorities] was a small sample and we would like tosupplement this data in order to provide more statistically rigorousinformation to the Select Committee about safeguarding and educational issuesthat affect home educated children.

 

Surely if Mr Badman rejected research about homeeducation due to the size of the sample this is also a reason to reject thereview’s research. Further home education research is rejected as it is selfselecting. Appealing to local authorities for more information to supportdecisions already made is surely self selecting. All local authorities areassumed to have already reported to the review committee before the recommendationswere put forward in June 2009. Asking for evidence after the report has beenpublished is astonishing. The review cannot be accepted as research but must beseen as polemic.

 

2. Issuesof ‘Evidence’

The recommendations seem to be predicated on the basisof evidence. The review states that there is no evidence between EHE and forcedmarriage, servitude, trafficking and other forms of child abuse.[3]

 

However the review goes on to recommend changes of greatconsequence to primary legislation due to child welfare issues. The reviewcites only two statements that purport to be evidence that there is a problemwith EHE children, local authorities and welfare.

 

The firststatement of ‘evidence’ taken from “local authority evidence and case studies”[4]is that  

 

the number of children known to children’s social carein some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size oftheir home educating population.[5]

 

 

This statement is meaningless. Being “known” tochildren’s social care says nothing about why they are known to theauthorities. There is nothing wrong in itself with being known to social care.There are many reasons why children may be known such as being reported by aneighbourhood or stranger who is concerned to see children out of school duringschool hours. This is a common occurrence. There are other reasons why homeeducated children might be known to the social cares such as having a physical disability, needing respite care,or a family member might be receiving help. All of which are innocuous reasonsthat should cast no aspersions on any of the people involved or EHE.

 

The second areaof ‘evidence’ that is referred to in the review is  “…the small number of serious casereviews where home education was a feature…” [6]  Obviously, the review cannot discussconfidential cases but there have been four high profile serious cases recentlyinvolving EHE that have been well publicised and are thought to be part of thereview ‘evidence’.

 

There weretragic cases in Birmingham and Gloucestershire where children, who were homeeducated, died. Both these children were well known to their local social care.In fact the child in Gloucestershire was a foster child where Social Servicesplaced the child with the foster mother to take care of her and both were seenby numerous health care professionals.

 

The other twocases are related to EHE only tangentially. The first is of a sad case of achild who died and whose mother did not release her body for some months. Thechild was home educated, but not of school age when she died and there is noquestion but that she died from anything other than natural cases. In thesecond case an older sibling was home educated. Presentation of these cases asevidence of safeguarding failures to do with EHE makes the common researchfallacy of presenting correlation as causation. The fact that the children inthese four tragic cases were home educated had nothing to do with their deaths.It is similar to someone saying that going to school is the cause of much childabuse. Children who go to school have been abused there in the past but that isnot the cause of the abuse. It is only a correlation with abuse.

 

The tragedy ineach of these cases was not caused by elective home education. Therefore thesecases are not evidence of the failure of current legislation. In fact, failureto find any actual evidence of safeguarding issues within EHE is evidence ofthe strength of current legislation.

 

3. Appealing forinternational parity: selective and biased

 

Having failed to presentevidence of a need for any change to legislation the report concludes with whatseems to be a report of international EHE legislation. Mr Badman here correctlyidentifies England as “the most liberal in its approach”[7] This isstated, in the light of the following paragraphs,  as if this in itself was an argument forchange. Rather than seeing England as leading the world in educational thought,the statement is presented as if this is something of a humiliation for thecountry rather than a situation to be lauded,  protected and something of which to beproud.

 

The review then goes to say:

 

Legislation from the 1930s banning elective homeeducation still persists in Germany and most European countries requireregistration, whereas New Zealand demands that the “person will be taught at least as regularly and as well as in registeredschool.”  [8]

 

This insinuates that England isout of step with the rest of the world. However this paragraph is misleading. Theonly named European country, Germany, is in fact, it must be assumed, selectedwith a view to influencing the debate in favour of a change in legislation.  While what thereview says about Germany is superficially correct but it does not tell thewhole story. Germany is the only country in the developed world where EHE isillegal and despite this there is a thriving and active German EHE movement[9].

 

It also seems irresponsible to recommend such radical changesto English law without first reviewingpractice in countries where EHE is more commonplace. There is no considerationof practice in USA or Canada where a significant proportion of the populationis educated outside the school system. The National Centre Education Statistics in the USA reported in2006 that approximately 1.1 million students (2.2 percent of the school agedpopulation) were home educated in 2003[10]. In these countries avariety of approaches by the local authorities are in operation none of whichare considered in this report.

 

Further, Mr Badman mentions demands made by the NewZealand government on home educating families but ignores the fact that in theNew Zealand Government is stopping monitoring of EHE as it is not costeffective.[11]

 

The statement goes on to say that

 

The majority of other countries also have processes for registration andthe systematic monitoring of elective home education and require evidence ofprogress, often specifically in mathematics and reading.[12]

 

There are no references for this statement so itcannot be checked. The review mentions a majority of countries that seem tosupport the review’s recommendations. However we do not know to which countriesor practices the review is referring. But this also leaves a minority. Thenumber of countries in this minority is not known so we may assume there aremany countries which do not require either monitoring or evidence of progress inany subjects. These countries and their practices presumably have not beenmentioned as they do not support the recommendations of Mr Badman’s review.

 

In conclusion, it is important to say that ithas not been possible to go through each individual recommendation and explainits fatal flaw. Major points concerning the process have been concentrated on forthis submission.  In fact, all the recommendationsare rejected as there is no evidence from this badly argued and untrustworthyreview that there are any problems with the current arrangement for electivehome educators.  As no evidence has been presented all the recommendationsin this review should be abandoned.

 

September 2009

 



[1] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF, 1 0.2

[2] http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/publications/documents/laeelectivehomeeducation/

[3] 8.14With regard to other specific groups within theremit of this inquiry I can find no evidence that elective home education is aparticular factor in the removal of children to forced marriage,

servitude or trafficking or forinappropriate abusive activities.

http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

 

[4] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

8.12

 

[5] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

8.12

 

[6] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

8.12

 

[7] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

11.1

 

[8] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

 

  [9]See http://www.homeschool.de, http://www.unschooling.de, andhttp://www.bvnl.de/

 [10] Bielick,S, Chandler, K., Broughman, S. P. (1999) Homeschoolingin the United States:1999, Education   Statistics Quarterly, Vol. 3, Issue3.

[11] "Chief Review Officer Graham Stoop wrote in February this year thatreviews of home educators are not efficient or effective. ""...Thisprogramme is considered to be low risk to the education priorities of theGovernment. In 2007/08 ERO completed 644 homeschooling reviews from a total of6,169 homeschooled students [at an average cost of $439.44 per review]. EROcould not provide assurance that the terms of exemption were being met in only35 of the 644 reviews [a 5.4% "failure" rate]. This has been thepattern over many years.""

http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/newzealand/714763/

 

[12] http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF,11.1